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Happiness Isn-t Brain Surgery:
The Mind-Body Connection
Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSM, LMHC, NCC
Executive Director, AllCEUs
Host, Counselor Toolbox
President, Recovery and Resilience International

Continuing Education (CE) credits for addiction and mental health counselors, social workers and marriage and family therapists can be earned for this presentation at

– Learn about your central control center, the brain
– What role does it play in
– Emotions
– Thoughts
– Physical Reactions/Sensations
– How things can go wrong
– How to fix those things
The Brain
– Your central control center
– Takes in information
– Compares it to what it already knows (or thinks it knows) from prior experiences
– Makes a decision about what to do.
– Based on that decision it activates action centers which excrete neurotransmitters in order to produce the desired reaction.
– Chemical messengers take -orders- to and from the brain through the nervous system
– The Big 6 fall into 3 main categories
– Excitatory: Dopamine, Norepinepherine, Glutamate
– Inhibitory: GABA, Serotonin
– Neuromodulator: Acetylcholine

Neurotransmitters Function
– Emotional
– Happiness
– Sadness
– Anger
– Fear
– Mental
– Concentration
– Learning
– Decision Making
– Physical
– Sleep behavior
– Eating behavior
– Libido
– Gastrointestinal Functioning/motility
– Pain perception
Neurotransmitters cont-
– An imbalance in neurotransmitters will cause emotional, mental, or physical -distress-
– What causes imbalances
– Too much -stress- for too long
– Poor nutrition
– Insufficient sleep
– Addictive behaviors

Your Stress Sensor: Peripheral Nervous System
– Your nervous system continues to feed the brain information about whether the threat is:
– Continuing and something else needs to be done
– Subsiding and your brain can tell your body to relax.

– How does all this happen-
– How does the brain -know- what is threatening-

Lets find out-

The Brain
– When you were born, there were very few things that were -meaningful-
– You assigned meaning to things through observation and experience
– When something happens you compare it to prior experiences to decide what to do
The Brain
– Unfortunately until about age 7 children-s interpretation of behavior is:
– Centric-Based on one thing at a time
– Concrete
– All-or-nothing
– Egocentric
The Brain
– Interpretations are only as good as:
– The information coming in
– The prior knowledge
– Things that are learned in early childhood need to be re-examined as we grow
– Once you were in middle school you could be taught to start
– Considering multiple aspects of a situation
– Using abstract reasoning (Looking for other interpretations of events)

Example 1
– Child brings home report card
– Child hears negative messages from a parent
– Why did you get a C, I know you are not that stupid.
– Why can-t you do anything right-
– Child interprets
– All-or-Nothing: I cannot do anything to make my parent proud.
– Egocentric: I am not lovable.
– Future behaviors
– Desperately seeking approval
– Fears of abandonment

Example 1 Alternative
– Child brings home report card
– Child hears neutral or positive messages from a parent
– Why did you get a C in math-  It seems like you might need some help in that subject.
– You are really smart and a good student, what is causing you difficulty-
– Child Interpretation
– All-or-nothing needs to be refocused to specifics
– Egocentric & Single focused needs to be broadened to the big picture
– Future behaviors
– Child starts learning to examine specific behaviors
– Child is able to identify strengths and weaknesses

Example 2
– Parent abandons the family
– Child interprets
– My parent has to love me.
– My parent left.
– My parent must hate me.
– I am unlovable.
– Result: Adult feeling inadequate, fearing abandonment and seeking external validation that was not received from parent

Example 2
– Parents divorce but have shared custody
– Child interprets
– My parent has to love me.
– My parent is still in my life.
– My parent will always be there for me.
– Result:
– Adult feeling adequate and able to provide internal validation
– Adult feeling secure in relationships (even if someone goes away they will be back)

Example 3
– Child witnesses domestic violence
– Child sees mom get hurt and -make- Daddy drink and hit her because she -makes- him mad.
– Child hears father criticizing mother and telling her how useless she is
– Child interprets: If I do not do absolutely everything right I will be unlovable and useless.
Example 3
– Future behaviors
– Shrouded in fear of failure either causing the person to refuse to try, or to be a perfectionist.
– Fears of abandonment
– Need for external validation
– Child has learned that he or she is responsible for other-s feelings and behaviors

What-s the Point
– Much of your anxiety and distress comes from
– Faulty interpretations of prior experiences creating faulty interpretations of present experiences
– The brain using outdated experiences
– Negative Messages = Threat –> Stress Reaction
– When you constantly bombard yourself with negative messages
– Your body constantly perceives a threat
– You are on -high alert- all the time –> Exhaustion, depression, hopelessness & helplessness

– The brain is your central control center
– Through observation and experience it -learns- what is okay and what is threatening
– Things that were threatening or misinterpreted in the past may now need to be re-examined
– By addressing those old, unhelpful thoughts and interpretations you can reduce physical and mental stress and anxiety.